The Great American Road Trip: Best of Bluff

If you’re stopping by Bluff on your way to the Utah Symphony’s Great American Road Trip performance here are some great places the locals recommend visiting.

Enjoy a meal at the Comb Ridge Bistro

This American style café has a long-standing tradition in the Bluff area. Established in 2005, Comb Ridge used to be a Navajo Twins Trading Post in the early 1970s. With excellent service and ambiance, the Bistro’s menu offers delicious food for every meal and includes a wide selection of alcoholic beverages for your enjoyment. The Comb Ridge Bistro supports the work of talented local artists displaying various landscape paintings, Navajo inspired artwork, and traditional stone jewelry.

Visit the restored Bluff Fort Historical Site

The Bluff Fort visitors center offers free guided tours daily with engaging staff ready to show you around and answer your questions Learn the history of the Mormon pioneers, who settled in Bluff, through audio-visual displays, a fully loaded covered wagon, and photography of the early residents and more. Take the chance to dress in pioneer attire and take a picture pulling an authentic pioneer handcart.

Walk the Hole In the Rock Trail

Through some of the most rugged and unforgiving terrain in North America, the Hole in the Rock Trail was built by the pioneers in 1879-80. The trail received its name from a crevice the colonizers utilized to gain access to the Colorado River gorge. Make unforgettable memories with a visit the trail! Marvel at its beauty and remember the challenges overcome by the original Bluff settlers.

Are you still not convinced this will be the best musical road trip of your life? Just take a look at this:


See you on the road!

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Beautiful Music, Stunning Vistas: A Mighty 5® Fan Account from Jeff Albertson

It’s not often I have the time, or the inclination, to see a symphony. As a former Navy deep sea diver, survival instructor, and pilot rescue swimmer, my interests were strictly in the physical world. My hobbies have always been in that direction as well. Then we (my wife and I) had a child, and my world grew. I now have four amazing kids, all different, all disparate in their interests. But that first one, while into many things, found her passion in the arts. It’s because of that interest I learned about symphony and opera; wonderful art forms I knew nothing about.

Fast forward to the present. My purpose for being in Utah is to move my second youngest daughter to college at Utah State (GO AGGIES). In the course of that process, we are spending time with my oldest, who now works for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera.

Ashley and Jeff Albertson

Ashley and Jeff Albertson exploring the national parks during the Mighty 5 Tour.

We have hiked the wonderful trails of Arches National Park. The Red Rock. The Delicate Arch. The massive, stunning vistas. Amazing. Humbling. And the Utah Symphony was in the midst of its Mighty 5® Tour. Symphony concerts set around the various parks; the concert I saw in Moab was stirring and beautiful. And as limited as my knowledge of the classics is, I found myself familiar with nearly every piece. Voices of Spring, sung by Celena Shafer, was not only strong, but also so appropriate given the setting. And Summertime (from Porgy & Bess) is always a personal favorite. I’d advise anyone to take some time to go see the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera in a venue near you, or in their Salt Lake City home.

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VIP at the Mighty 5®

Natalie Cope is the Special Events Manager for the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. It is her job to coordinate events and activities for our VIP guests. The Mighty 5® Tour has given our VIP patrons a wonderful opportunity to explore the natural beauty of these national parks. I spoke with her on Tuesday morning about the VIP events of the tour.

USUO: What are your duties for the tour?
Natalie: I have planned all VIP activities and excursions through the tour. That includes dinners receptions, the outdoor things we’re doing like hiking and horseback riding, and post-concert receptions.

USUO: What are some of the VIP events being held at Mighty 5® this year?
Natalie: Last night, we did a reception at the Historic Gifford Homestead at Capitol Reef. It’s an intimate setting and picturesque. It feels cozy because it isn’t as busy as the rest of the park. The people at the park went above and beyond with flowers and decorations. There were hummingbirds flying around the tables. It was beautiful. There were even deer just wandering around; they were not afraid of us at all. They like the fruit trees that grow there. The Superintendent of Capitol Reef came out and had some remarks. It was really great. All the VIPs walked over to the Chamber concert at Fruita Campground afterward.

Contine reading

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The Mighty 5® Tour has Begun

Dear Internet Reader,

Monday marked the first day of the Utah Symphony’s Mighty 5® Tour, and all I can say is “what a whirlwind!” For me, just seeing this massive event come to life is spectacular. All of the planning, people, departments, community support, artists and donors involved…this was a huge undertaking, and now we’re seeing the results of all of our efforts.

Yesterday, Pat Richards, board chair of the Utah Symphony, made a lovely speech thanking everyone who was involved to make this happen. And honestly, I can’t say it any better than she did.

Pat Richards

Utah Symphony Board Chair Pat Richards

Last night, the Aspen Winds Quintet kicked-off the Mighty 5® Tour with the first chamber concert. Their performances of Nielsen, Copland, and others was inspiring. I was happy to see so many had people turned-out to enjoy it. In fact, so many people showed up that there wasn’t enough seating. People brought their camping chairs from their cars and campsites and joined us behind the bench seating. Contine reading

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Summertime with the Utah Symphony

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival

Deer Valley Music Festival Summer Home of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera

The Utah Symphony is one of the few symphonies in the United States that plays a full-time schedule. Debate is rampant over what that means exactly—most websites and search options and opinions put “full-time” in quotes. For us, it means that the Utah Symphony plays all year long with a 52-week schedule. (There are only 16 symphonies across the US that have 52-week schedules, but even that number is debated.)

I can hear some of your thoughts, though, that sound something like, “But, Traci, the Utah Symphony season ended with Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and guest cellist Matthew Zalkind playing Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme!”

And you would be right: The regular season ended with that. But the Utah Symphony has their annual Summer Community Concert Series all across the Wasatch front. This concert series is full of patriotic songs including “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” and features guest artists like violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, local piano soloist Mary Anne Huntsman, local soprano Celena Shafer, and guest conductor Thomas Hong. In many of the shows, the Cannoneers of the Wasatch will be showcasing their unique abilities during Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Orchestra, which calls for actual cannon fire in the musical score.

The best part is that you will not have to drive up to Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City to see them—some of these concerts will sound like they are in your own backyard.

There are six Summer Community Concerts:

  • SCERA Shell in Orem, Utah – Wednesday, June 23 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Taylorsville Dayzz in Taylorsville, Utah – Thursday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah – Friday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah – Wednesday, July 2 at 8:30 p.m.
  • Gallivan Plaza in Salt Lake City, Utah – Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Snowbasin in Huntsville, Utah – Thursday, Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Two of these concerts are free: Taylorsville Dayzz, thanks to the resident’s support through Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts and Parks Program (ZAP); and Gallivan Plaza, which is being funded by the Utah Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City.

If you can’t get to these Summer Community Concerts, don’t worry. There are many concerts available through the month of July up at the Deer Valley® Music Festival. Each show spotlights a different musical genre and different artists. Guests at the festival include Kenny Rogers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Ben Folds. There are classical chamber music concerts on Wednesday nights at St. Mary’s Church, and special shows on Fridays and Saturdays highlighting music from the movies including songs from John Williams and an entire night of Disney favorites. You can get a complete list of shows and dates at


If you live down south or your family is on vacation in August, then you’ll still have an epic chance to see the Utah Symphony. From August 12 to August 16, the Utah Symphony will perform among the iconic red rocks during The Mighty 5® Tour of Utah’s National Parks. Stops include Bryce Canyon and Zion’s National Park. All of these concerts are free. You can get a complete schedule for the Might 5® Tour at

And finally, held on Sept. 6 (at 11 a.m. or 8 p.m. at Abravanel Hall), the last summer concert is a spectacular showcase from Video Games Live, featuring the music from the beginning of gaming to the best of our current favorites, including Mario, Zelda, Halo and Final Fantasy. Visit for more about this program.

It’s going to be a musical summer, and hopefully, you and your family can join us at one of these concerts.

The 2014/2015 regular season (aka: back at Abravanel Hall) starts on September 12 and 13. This performance continues the Utah Symphony’s Mahler Tradition , kicking off the two-season long tribute to Gustav Mahler with the explosive Symphony No. 1, “Titan.” ~ Traci Grant

For more information about these summer concerts, visit

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On the Road with the Utah Symphony

Written by Eric Hopkins, Percussionist and Associate Principal Timpanist

The Utah Symphony spent the first weekend of October this year on a mini-tour to Southern Utah. The orchestra boarded its two usual tour buses and headed to St. George and Cedar City, performing three shows in a short-but-sweet three day period. By luck or fate, we managed to both avoid the early snowfall in Salt Lake and let the biannual LDS General Conference have the spotlight.

When the orchestra convened for departure on Thursday morning near the Energy Solutions Arena, it looked more like an outdoor enthusiasts’ meet-up than orchestra musicians going to work. Granted three guys in athletic shirts, who were not related to the symphony, happened to be loading their climbing and cycling gear into a RAV4 parked right next to our buses. However three musicians did bring their bicycles along for the trip, stowing them under the bus. Without the tails and black formalwear, the orchestra donned its best fall casual for a comfy bus ride.

  Travis Peterson and Anne Lee
Travis and Anne study arduously.

On the bus, a single topic of conversation predominated. It’s not that orchestral musicians are not cultured, political, well-read, or generally well-rounded and interesting people, it’s just that a lot of us had something on our minds – Salome – our first opera of the fall season, which we would start rehearsing the following week. This ‘music drama,’ as its composer Richard Strauss referred to it, is rampant with tricky, exposed passages for most instrumentalists, and the texture can be complex, with a lot of intricate passages happening in conjunction. Thanks to Wikipedia and the public domain, an orchestral score showing all the parts is readily available online. And thanks to smart phones, the Internet can be accessed on a tour bus. Bam.

I’m not going to lie, the whole trip was pretty seamless, unfortunately for provocative blogging. The scenery was beautiful. The landscape morphed from yellowed, sun-beat grass to deep, pasty red rock as we descended south towards Zion. We musicians noted the One Man Band Diner, and as we passed Levan, someone pointed out that that spells ‘navel’ backwards, the belly button of Utah. We had a few hours of downtime each day, but we couldn’t go to Zion National Park for various reasons (#CanYouReallyCloseANationalPark?), but I for one had my bicycle, my legs, and my A-game. Besides, what else was there to do? Our recreation time on Day 2 was spent in Beaver, Utah, which, in addition to boasting the best drinking water around, was mostly just open desert.

Erin Voellinger and Eric Hopkins
Erin and Eric take a hike.

Mercedes Smith and David Porter
Mercedes and David look for water.

The orchestra performed two different programs on the tour, lead by assistant conductor Vladimir (‘Vlada’) Kulenovic. The first program was a high impact show including Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, as well as some classical era symphonic repertoire of Beethoven and Mendelssohn. The second performance and program was the debut of our morning Education concert, an interactive show for K-12 audiences which the orchestra will perform around the region throughout the school year.

For myself and the other brand new and mostly new musicians in the orchestra, this was the first tour of many to come. It gave us new folk the chance to really get to know our colleagues and hang out in a casual setting. After shows at night, we would flock to a few hotel rooms to play cards and discuss the triumphs or oddities of the show that night, to debate about orchestra politics, or just to talk life. That bonding time enhances our musical and personal unity as a cohesive ensemble, so that we can be that much more ready for to tackle Salome (not literally) and all of our future concerts and endeavors.

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